Technology Videos 

How Some Words Get Forgetted

Get ready for a dive into linguistic history! Our friend Dr. Joe Hanson from It’s Okay to Be Smart (PBS Digital Studios) goes full science nerd on the English language–and irregular verbs. Why are irregular verbs so common in English? Where do they come from? English is a confusing language for many reasons. But the irregular verbs might be the most confusing part. Why is “told” the past tense of “tell” but “smold” isn’t the past tense of “smell”? It turns out that the study of irregular verbs can teach…

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language detectives Videos 

Language Detectives

Where did the Uto-Aztecan language originate? An interdisciplinary research project looked at a set of 100 words to understand the sound sequences of this language. Watch this video to see how an anthropologist and a computational biologist carried out this research. This is another in the Shelf Life series from the American Museum of Natural History. Museum curators Peter Whiteley, an anthropologist, and Ward Wheeler, a computational biologist, joined forces to trace the evolution of Native American languages by applying gene-sequencing methods to historical linguistics. I became fascinated by the idea…

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Shelf Life: The Language Detectives Archaeology Videos 

Language Detectives of the Americas

Shelf Life: The Language Detectives This episode of the Shelf Life video series details how two curators at the American Museum of Natural History, Peter Whiteley and Ward Wheeler, have been working to trace the evolution of Native American languages. From the American Museum of Natural History The researchers focused on the Uto-Aztecan family of languages, which have been spoken in Central and North America for millennia. Languages from this group were used in the bustling streets of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan—a city larger than 16th-century London—and spoken by nomadic…

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University of Vermont scientists Peter Dodds and Chris Danforth led a new Big Data study confirming that humans use more happy words than sad words. Uncategorized 

Preference for Positive, Happy Words

In 1969, two psychologists at the University of Illinois proposed what they called the Pollyanna Hypothesis–the idea that there is a universal human tendency to use positive, happy words more frequently than negative ones. “Humans tend to look on (and talk about) the bright side of life,” they wrote. That speculation has provoked debate ever since. Now, scientists at the University of Vermont have gathered a data set of billions of words to support the 1960s theory. People Use More Happy Words Than Sad Words The researchers collected samples of ten…

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